I arrived in Peru on December 4th, 2015, and have been here for almost two months now. My visa expires in June – six months all up – but I could easily stay here for a year or two. So far, I’ve spent a month in Lima, almost 2 weeks in Arequipa and 2 weeks in Yanque, a small village town three hours north of Arequipa. I detail my experience in Yanque here and here, and more Arequipa stories/revelations are here and here. I love travelling slow!
I’ve done handstands outside the governmental palace of Peru, played piano four-hands improvised without stopping with a computer programmer and eaten vegan chocolate cake at an eco/organic farmer’s market.
I’ve walked 13km just to cry with a stranger in a park.
I’ve giggled over dandelion tea with the secretary / Personal Assistant of the German Ambassador in Peru, and lead a singing workshop with a football player with a voice of gold.
I’ve joked about my salads (tikamasalad) with the ex-Vice Minister for Tourism over dinner.
I’ve watched the sunset over the Pacific Ocean, marveled over hearts carved into the sides of hills and burst out laughing for no other reason than to laugh.
I’ve eaten a pizza at a Raw Café and a giant orange-chocolate cheesecake and bliss balls and coco-orange bar at Chakra Consciente with a Romanian raw vegan in love with fermented foods and sauerkraut and kimchi with a FOOD IS LIFE philosophy, and three carnivorous law students who shared a raw vegan Thai wrap.
I’ve been to a centre city park with a hundred cats talking with a Japanese girl and a Peruvian guy with dreams to travel the world.
I’ve danced around a kitchen with a servant lady from the Andes.
I’ve sung Champs Elysées at the top of my lungs to a Japanese pop band.
I’ve played COUP and killed the ‘influences’ of a gorgeous graphic designer-turned-rock-star who made it through to semifinals of La Voz on television.
I’ve eaten strange fruits at the apartment of the President of Ship for World Youth Alumni Association Peru, done handsprings and somersaults on a trampoline for the first time in three years in an urban mansion and helped a Portuguese-Mozambique teacher of English create the sound track for a school video.
I’ve talked with a Chinese Peruvian about the terrorism she lived through in the 80s.
I’ve held and transported a turtle for the first time.
I’ve battled mosquitos in Friendship Park with a Chilean.
I’ve tasted toasted cacao beans for the first time in a chocolate museum and seen chocolate flavoured condoms à la Peru. As well as trying cacao tea, chocolate nibs, lucuma marmalade and getting hit on by the young man who works there.
I’ve run around a kids’ centre with 140 poor children in the south of Lima making Christmas cards, playing Chinese whispers and playing games.
I’ve cartwheeled in an old Spanish colonial suburb with giant painted buildings and Mediterranean balconies.
I’ve danced in a tango class by an African Venezuelan, moonwalked in hiking sandals, learned to skateboard outside a university campus in Arequipa, the ‘white city,’ and smoked in a park at night talking about spiritual experiences and Tarot journeys with a mandala-therapist-permaculture-vegan-dancer-singer-architect, an experimental drug lover and a transvestite male dressed as a female.
I’ve walked through cobblestone alleyways in the most distinctive city of Peru, chanced upon a vegan sushi shop called the PROFANE BUDDHA run by an American man, listened to a monologue by a philosophy-student-swimming-lover-vegan for three hours in an organic chocolate shop and met Scooby, the giant dog which frequents the Plaza de Armas in front of the basilica lit up with beautiful night lights.
I’ve been to the mirador of Yanahuara, eaten tuna fruit – also known as prickly pear or paddle cactus – honey melon and drunk cacao tea, ended up at a giant park, Selva Alegre (Happy Forest) too late at sunset, eaten vegan spaghetti with vegan sausages with an old man who changed his life through nutrition and followed his dream of creating a restaurant at last and previewed Spanish change-maker songs from the founder of Arequipa vegan, a volcano-climber, hotel assistant, Hare Krishna-lover, ex-military member and animal rights activist.
I have gone a week without showering.
I have had altitude sickness from being just 2300m above sea level.
I’ve walked every parallel street in centre city on New Years’ Day.
I’ve listened to recited poetry, electric guitar and improvised theatre-fiction and a six girls’ all-girl band from the front row in the central library and sung to the photographic collection of its founder.
I’ve had heart-to-hearts with a Japanese-Peruvian kids’ singing teacher who just wants to create spaces of love, a mathematics PhD in a bus station who wants to go dive in the forest with nothing more than the clothes on his back – no hammock, no mosquito net, no machete, nothing.
I’ve lived in a house with five rescued dogs’ piss and shit everywhere, no running water for three days and a bed with a mattress so shoddy it folded clean in half when I sat down on it.
I’ve had days where I’ve walked or moved for up to four hours and loved it.
I’ve been gifted 100% organic home-grown hot chocolate making slabs by a brown woman called Blanca with a heart of gold, a photography-collection-art-yoga-music-theatre house, and a background of vegetarianism and studying dessert-making in Austria.
I’ve talked for hours to a vegan-traveller-OKCupid-seeker-mining-administration-working 20-something girl from Lima with a heart as big as her house about her adventures hitchhiking Brazil for the first time, travelling without money through Europe and crossing half a dozen countries in a few days, sleeping outside in parks and beaches with nothing more than a towel as covering and dreams to empower women, children and animals…and slept in her giant room of a five-star apartment with nothing more than a sleeping bag and a wooden floor.
I’ve talked to a couple of hippy travelers selling artisanal products on the roadside in sandals and dreadlocks saying everything is free, don’t worry…and laughing like they had lost their minds.
I’ve spent hours in other people’s kitchens making green juices, giant salads, stuffed capsicum, lentils and lentil burgers, potatoes, rice, mushrooms, quinoa, fruit salads which I’ve barely eaten myself.
I’ve been to my first ever Christmas eve dinner. Two, in fact. Also with two cats and six dogs.
I’ve been published in an international radical ‘wild woman’ magazine, Rebelle Society, for a piece called: TALK TO ME LIKE YOUR SOUL IS ON FIRE – TO THE LAST MAN WHO SHALL EVER LOVE ME.
I’ve walked into a farmer’s eco-market in Lima with all the things I love – coconut oil, olive oil, Sacha Inchi seeds, yacon, cacao, honey, organic vegetables, quinoa burgers, vegan pizza, raw vegan cheesecakes, raw bread…
I’ve walked for three hours through a craggy Macbeth-cloud forest singing and having my vagina in the head a car-efficiency engineer and international award-winning sustainability entrepreneur in a high acrobatics manoeuvre.
I’ve had a random policeman explain the building structure of a distant building in entirety out of the blue and been walking with two friends past a magnetic Incan stone and had a waiter burst out of the restaurant just to explain the history of it to us.
I’ve sung in one of the grandest art museums of Lima.
I’ve been grateful for my period which has turned up for the second time in six months, for not having anything to do in the mornings, for sesame seed oil and sesame seeds, and for being able to finish a mountain of vegetables in five days.
I’ve had a Japanese grandmother fix the holes in my black leggings, and randomly received Christmas presents of green tea and a tea infuser.
I haven’t shaved my legs for two months and stopped caring and walked around the city in short shorts.
I’ve been invited to run a vegan fine-dining cooking class, a singing workshop, perform at a karaoke, run acro-yoga classes, work in a chocolate-making shop, participate in the international Millenial Quest, go to a permaculture gathering and an activist birthday party and run leadership programmes for young people in Arequipa, and cycle 150km to the seaside all in the space of a week.
I’ve caught a bus at midnight to a canyon deeper than the Grand Canyon and arrived there at 3am in the morning, living there for two weeks.
I’ve talked to a lonely seven-year-old indigenous girl by the toilets outside an Indian restaurant in Peru – what are you up to here? I came here because my mum works in the kitchen. But I’m bored. I don’t have any friends to play with.
I’ve slept on a wooden bridge over a creek.
I’ve spent a day playing tug-of-war with two rogue escaped llama with a collective weight four times my own.
I’ve relished in the simply joy of odd jobs – mopping floors, dishes, linseed oiling a stone hut, watering a hundred plants, pulling weeds – been up to my arms in paint or mud or grass, and never felt happier.
I’ve read Women Who Run With Wolves in a lush green valley with the poorest farmers in dirt-and-stone huts at 3600m altitude.
I’ve been lost by the gorge at night and been shouting till I was led home by a black she-wolf dog with bronze paws and a flashing red collar, vaulting over fences and running up trails in the darkness following the scent of home.
I’ve taught permaculture to a beautiful young French man managing an eco-lodge in Yanque.
I’ve diverted ancient Incan canals, inundated a field and accidentally created waterfalls over the edge of the hill to the fields below.
I’ve made a giant vegetable soup for a French fashion-designer sick with diarrhea, the Indian aubergine dish that used to have me vomit when I did handstands after eating it for three girls working in the offices of giant mines, and fasted on green juice for a day.
In the spirit of doing something that scares me everyday, I’ve busked in the cloisters of Arequipa, singing for almost four hours for all my food for that week.
And I can’t wait to do it again.